Genomics of coloration in natural animal populations.

Animal coloration has traditionally been the target of genetic and evolutionary studies. However, until very recently, the study of the genetic basis of animal coloration has been mainly restricted to model species, whereas research on non-model species has been either neglected or mainly based on candidate approaches, and thereby limited by the knowledge obtained in model species. Recent high-throughput sequencing technologies allow us to overcome previous limitations, and open new avenues to study the genetic basis of animal coloration in a broader number of species and colour traits, and to address the general relevance of different genetic structures and their implications for the evolution of colour. In this review, we highlight aspects where genome-wide studies could be of major utility to fill in the gaps in our understanding of the biology and evolution of animal coloration. The new genomic approaches have been promptly adopted to study animal coloration although substantial work is still needed to consider a larger range of species and colour traits, such as those exhibiting continuous variation or based on reflective structures. We argue that a robust advancement in the study of animal coloration will also require large efforts to validate the functional role of the genes and variants discovered using genome-wide tools.This article is part of the themed issue ‘Animal coloration: production, perception, function and application’.

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